A Story of Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum
Best-selling authors, Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, spoke at an all-school assembly on Friday, September 22. They shared the fascinating stories of their uncommon backgrounds. Odede grew up in Kibera, one of Kenya's most impoverished slums. He lived in the street and endured poverty, abuse and struggle. Posner grew up in Denver, Colorado, with dreams of making a difference in the world and access to education and opportunities that led her to Wesleyan University.
Odede taught himself to read and ultimately started a movement to organize the youth in Kibera and to help combat the violence against women that was so common in Kenya.
Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and his philosophy of non-violence, Odede said "I wanted to be the Dr. King of Kibera. That became my goal."While at Wesleyan, Posner learned about Odede and wanted to work with him. She decided to study abroad in Kenya and became one of the first outsiders to live deep inside the Kibera slum. Posner became fluent in Swahili and became a respected member of the community. Posner and Odede also connected on a personal level and fell in love.
"Because I happened to be born in Denver, Colorado, I had every opportunity. Kennedy did not," Posner said. "Talent is universal but opportunity is not."
This couple worked together on Odede's youth empowerment group called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Posner helped Odede escape political violence and fulfill his lifelong dream of an education, at Wesleyan University. They went on to found Kibera's first tuition-free school for girls, and they have expaned to open schools in four Kenyan slums. They have expanded their model to connect essential services like health care, clean water, and economic empowerment programs.
Their approach is to invite both genders to be part of the solution and build a community invested in its own future. Odede and Posner have been widely recognized for their humanitarian work.
The couple's best-selling book, Find Me Unafraid, relates their own inspiring story and is a testament to the power of young people to have a deep impact on the world.